Green Living: 10 Tips Under $10 (Volume 3)

Here is another round of our 10 under $10 tips.  The first tip on this list was life-changing for me:  the cosmetic database is where. it. is. at.  as far as i am concerned.  I was BEYOND freaked out after “testing” some of my favorite drugstore products in the cosmetic database.  Needless to say, most of them did not score well.  I have since replaced almost all of my skin/hair/beauty products with their all-natural cousins. (I like to think that my beauty products have large extended families).  If and when you do decide to replace any [or all. ps i am nothing if not subtle] beauty products, be sure to dispose of them properly.  Most recycling centers consider these chemicals hazzardous waste and have to be recycled accordingly. ie…NOT dumping them down the drain or throwing them in the trash receptacle.

1.  Check out the cosmetics database to discover the relative toxicity of your sunblock, lotion, shampoo, shaving cream, soap and more.  It’s particularly important for children to use toxin free products, but many products labeled baby or children friendly are full of toxic chemicals – carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.  www.cosmeticsdatabase.org.

2.  Use white vinegar in the dishwasher to combat hard water and get dishes clean. recently utah banned phosphates from dishwashing detergent, so dishes can come out of the dishwasher cloudy.  white vinegar helps with this and isn’t harmful for the water supply.

3. Put a bottle full of water with pebbles or a rock in your toilet tank. the average toilet uses three to seven gallons per flush. a bottle in the tank will displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each use, or up to about 10 gallons a day in a typical home.  You can use a brick, but if you do make sure to wrap it in plastic.  Bricks can disintegrate and ruin your plumbing.

4.  Use natural, not synthetic exfoliants to save the oceans and waterways.  Most exfoliants are liquid-based and contain plastic beads that do the exfoliating.  that plastic is meant to go right down the drain, and which makes its way out into our waterways, eventually ending up in the oceans. the tiny beads take many years to break down, and they can choke marine life, from large animals on down to tiny plankton that got covered in them.  you can easily make your own inexpensive scrub using fine sea salt, olive oil and essential oils.

5.  Ban styrofoam from your life – particularly styrofoam food containers.  Ask restaurants to wrap any leftovers in foil or bring your own container.  Don’t be afraid to educate restaurateurs about the evils of styrofoam.  In 2006, 1,460,000 tons of polystyrene foam were deposited in landfills in the United States.  also known as styrofoam, polystyrene foam is the worst of the packaging offenders. it’s made of non-renewable petroleum and once manufactured, it’s not biodegradable. as soon as polystyrene is contaminated by food (like crumbs or grease from your french fries) it is no longer recyclable, and very few recycling facilities accept it even when it’s clean. Polystyrene is also hazardous to human health.   It contains the neurotoxins styrene and benzene, which are widely accepted to be carcinogens.  These toxins can leach into food that’s acidic, warm, alcoholic or oily and into the environment after exposure to rain and other weather.  Many cities, like Portland, San Francisco and Freeport, Maine, have banned polystyrene both because of the threats it poses to human and environmental health and because it can choke wildlife when swallowed.

6.  Buy in bulk or semi-bulk.  There is so much plastic packaging associated with single serving yogurt and particularly cheese, like string cheese.  Buy the large container of yogurt and dish out what you’d like.  That way you save money, you can customize your yogurt by adding whatever you want, and you save packaging.  same for cheese.  Cut up a large block of mozarella cheese to make cheese sticks.  Sometimes you can’t avoid single serve packages, but be conscious of the times you can.

7.  Cut down on tuna or eliminate it altogether.  For years, the tuna industry used the practice of “dolphin circling” to catch tuna, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 dolphins each year. since 1992 the several tuna-fishing countries — including the u.s. and mexico, have banned the practice. But wait!  Tuna fishing remains harmful to other sea life, icluding sharks, rays and endangerbd sea turtles.  Why else is tuna tumultuous?  It’s a threat to itself: it’s estimated that around 90% of the world’s tuna’s stock has already been harvested.  The international commission for the conservation of atlantic tunas recently addressed the dwindling tuna population by lowering the number of catches allowed, but environmental critics say that’s not enough.  Tuna’s not the only fish to watch out for – there’s also chilean sea bass, cod, flounder, and a host of other overfished fish to consider. some great alternatives – arctic char, rainbow trout or wild alaskan salmon.

8. Buy organic every time you buy corn or corn based products.  King corn is bad for the environment because it requires so much land and energy to produce.  The increase in corn harvesting has resulted in massive deforestation across the world. the widespread use of chemical fertilizer on corn fields in the U.S. has created a massive “dead zone” in the gulf of mexico – a 7,900 square-mile area patch of water that is so oxygen-depleted that sea life cannot survive.

9. This one is for the ladies, so cover your ears men.  Do not buy tampons with plastic applicators ever.  You know the giant island of plastic in the ocean – I can personally guarantee that at least 10% of that island consists of plastic applicators.  You have to read the packaging carefully to make sure you aren’t getting plastic, but just do it.  Also, it’s much healthier for you and the environment to buy organic tampons.  Bleached cotton or synthetic tampons have been shown to contain dioxins, which are contaminants associated with serious health problems.  Finally, there are alternatives to tampons and pads – do a little research, we don’t want to go into gory detail.

10. Instead of buying books online that are carbon footprint heavy in terms of the manufacturing, shipping and packaging process, go to the library.  Ditto for dvd’s, cd’s and magazines.  The library, shockingly, has all of these items there for – free!

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About Nicole DiMauro

i am the *intern* for this green earth, a lively talk radio show on KPCW 91.9 FM about environmental issues & green living. download or listen live tuesday mornings at 9 am at www.kpcw.org
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